Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/229

This page has been validated.
225
THE IMMIGRANT.

The strained relations with England followed by the war of 1812, practically stopped immigration for several years. During 1817, however, twenty thousand immigrants arrived in the United States. This number was unprecedented at that time, and caused considerable criticism of the overcrowding of immigrant ships.

Immigration first assumed large proportions during the decade 1831-1840. It increased progressively, and during the next twenty years was relatively greater in proportion to the native population than at any other period. The great famine in Ireland greatly increased Irish immigration. German immigration was increased at the same time because of industrial depression and the revolt of 1848. The discovery of gold in California, no doubt, also contributed to the increase of immigration at this time.

Irish immigration reached its height in the decade 1841-1850, when it constituted 46 per cent, of the total. It has declined steadily and is now only 4 per cent, of our total.

The Germans kept coming in increasing numbers and in the early eighties were 30 per cent, of the total. They also have fallen off, and now constitute less than 10 per cent. The Scandinavians became a considerable factor in the decade 1861-1870, and in 1889 furnished 10 per cent, of our immigrants. Their proportion has also declined and at present is about 10 per cent. With the decline in the proportion of immigrants from the United Kingdom, Germany and the Scandinavian countries, a rapid increase in the arrivals from Italy, Austria-Hungary and Russia is noticeable.

This marked change in the complexion of immigration can be appreciated from the fact that in 1875 we received 3,631 from Italy, 7,658 from Austria-Hungary and 8,981 from Russia, while in 1903 we received 230,622 from Italy, 206,001 from Austria-Hungary and 136,093 from Russia. In other words, the immigration from these countries to 1875 was only 9 per cent., while to-day it constitutes about 67 per cent, of our total immigration.

In general, the immigrant of the past differed greatly from the immigrant of to-day. As has been stated, the first immigrants were pioneers and differed little from the old colonists of pre-revolutionary times. As time went on they spread from the Alleghenies to the Mississippi, side by side with pioneers from the New England and Southern states. These immigrants were agricultural in occupation and were invariably home-seekers.

The development of our vast natural resources, particularly coal and iron, created a demand for a new type of immigrant, an unskilled laborer, who may be styled an industrial immigrant. The building of the great transcontinental and other lines of railroads furnished additional work for this industrial immigrant, and opened up vast new